Letters of administration

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Where there is no will, or a will is executed but does not appoint an executor, letters of administration must be obtained before the estate of the deceased may be distributed. The procedure is similar to that required for obtaining a grant of probate (seeProblems with the executor”).

Probate and estate duties were completely abolished by 1984, and no formalities are now required at either state or federal level.

Need for grant of probate or letters of administration

A grant of probate or letters of administration is required because the assets of the estate may not otherwise be collected for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the will. For example, the deceased may have had a bank account, and banks will only allow executors to have access to a deceased’s account if the executor concerned has received a grant of probate. Another practical result of receiving a grant of probate (or letters of administration) is the protection the grant gives to the beneficiaries or next of kin. Such people can assume that they are the only people who will receive the property of the deceased. If someone disputes this claim by, say, the production of another will, the only way these claimants can receive any of the estate is to apply to the Supreme Court to decide which is the last valid will.

A grant of probate or letters of administration is essential to enable the “personal representative” (the executor or administrator of the estate) to obtain the title to the deceased’s property and then to collect, administer and protect it for the benefit of those interested in the estate. These may be creditors, beneficiaries or next of kin. The production of the probate is the only way the personal representative can prove title to the deceased’s assets.